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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Nell Williams OAM

Significant Tasmanian Women icon

(1912 - 2006)
Unionist

Nell Williams"I can say now that equal pay has not come to what it should be. I think women are still losing out on equal pay. Unless someone stands up and is counted again I think the women will lose out on equal pay because there are no two ways about it. If the women let the males dominate they will dominate again."

Nell was born in Lorinna in North-West Tasmania. After her family moved to Hobart Nell started working at Cadbury’s but she had to leave after 4 years because the cocoa troubled her lungs.

Nell worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross and was presented with an award for good service from 1939-1964.

In 1948 Nell started work as a cook at the Royal Derwent Hospital, she eventually received an award for 27 years of service there. In 1953 she joined the Hospital Employee’s Federation becoming the State President in 1966. She was the first woman in Australia to be elected to a position like this which she held until 1973. During that time she struggled for equal pay and better working conditions for women.

Nell was also the first person to be awarded an Order of Australia in 1987 for her work in unions, which included the Tasmanian Pensioners Union and the Hospital.

Nell was an active voluntary worker all her life. She was a member of the board of Royal Derwent Hospital for over 24 years, advocating for people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities and staff. Nell was actually one of the inaugural members of the board of management in 1968.

Nell was also active member of the Australian Labor Party and was one of the only females to hold a position on the Executive at that time.

She continued to take an active role in the Pensioners Union of which she was State President and Senior Vice President - "that has been my force behind me — to help people".

Nell received the 1998 Australia Day Citizen Award in recognition of her fine work.

Nell died on Christmas Eve 2006, aged 94.

Links:

The Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women 2005

Reference:

The Broader Fight: Tasmanian Women Unionists: An Oral History Hobart: The Public Sector Union, 1992


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